Design with a capital D


RCA Report on the nature of design with a capital D

  • central concern is “the conception and realization of new things”
  • it encompasses the appreciation of “material culture” and the application of “the arts of planning, inventing, making and doing.”
  • at its core is the ‘language’ of ‘modelling’; it is possible to develop students’ aptitudes in this ‘language’, equivalent to aptitudes in the ‘language’ of the sciences – numeracy – and the ‘language’ of humanities – literacy
  • design has its own distinct ‘things to know, ways of knowing them, and ways of finding out about them’

Education in any of these ‘cultures’ entails the following three aspects:

  • the transmission of knowledge about a phenomenon of study
  • a training in the appropriate methods of enquiry
  • an initiation into the belief systems and values of the ‘culture’

If we contrast the sciences, the humanities, and design under each aspect, we may become clearer of what we mean by design, and what is particular to it.
the phenomenon of study in each culture is:

  • in the sciences: the natural world
  • in the humanities: human experience
  • in design: the man-made world

the appropriate methods in each culture are:

  • in the sciences: controlled experiment, classification, analysis
  • in the humanities: analogy, metaphor, criticism, evaluation
  • in design: modelling, pattern-formation, synthesis

the values of each culture are:

  • in the sciences: objectivity, rationality, neutrality, and a concern for ‘truth’
  • in the humanities: subjectivity, imagination, commitment, and a concern for ‘justice’
  • in design: practicality, ingenuity, empathy, and a concern for ‘appropriateness’

Perhaps it would be better to regard the ‘third culture’ as technology, rather than design (…) Technology involves a synthesis of knowledge and skills from both the sciences and the humanities, in the pursuit of practical tasks.



Cross, N., 1982. Designerly ways of knowling. In Design Studies, Vol. 3, no. 4 pp. 221-227

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Visitors and Residents, White & Cornu


Visitors and Residents’ is a continuum of modes of engagement which has been well established as a valuable way to understand how individuals engage online (…) a Visitor mode of engagement was likened to people using the Web as a garden shed which they went into to select a tool for a particular purpose. Having completed their task, they shut the shed door and left no visible trace of their entrance or use of the tool behind them. A Resident mode of engagement, on the other hand, was likened to inhabiting a part or parts of the Web. Social media platforms, in particular, offered opportunities to ‘meet’ others, to chat and converse, and to develop relationships. Key to this mode of engagement was the fact that it leaves strong evidence, visible traces, of personal presence through, perhaps, creating a profile, or posting photos, or interacting and communicating with others in a variety of ways

Mapping the range of ways in which individuals engage with the Web, taking into account not only their modes of engagement but also what sort of activities they do in what context and to what extent was the subject of inquiry for two programs dating back in 2009 (Isthmus-Open Habitat project). But with the 2014 “The challenges of Online Residency” program, 17 institutions  were brought together in an attempt to pilot the mapping process in a more formal way (…) the project was designed to help teaching staff better understand the way their students were engaging online (…) The result, after having removed maps we considered to have been created without a proper grasp of the process, was 345 maps from across a broad range of disciplines, educational levels, and higher education providers.

Overall it is clear that engagement genre is not significantly contingent on discipline, level, age, or any other factor. The way people choose to engage online is highly personal, just as their approach to learning is. However, even in this convenient sample a number of broad patterns emerge. Among others:

  • Social Science and HSC have the most Resident-only activity in the institutional portion of the maps
  • The most obvious data pattern is the prominence of the V–R genre, or a map in which every quadrant had some activity in
  • Much of the activity in the IR quadrant is based in fairly mundane platforms such as the VLE and e-mail


Full article and Image available here

Historical Progression of Virtual Worlds, by Messinger et al, 2008


  • Arcade Games: element of real-time video interactivity
  • Console Systems: started as games for single players but subsequent generation permitted players to compete against each other
  • LAN Games: computer-based instead of console-based, unlimited number of participants
  • Internet Connectivity: 90s consoles with compact disks and 32 and 64 bit systems/ 00s ability to connect to the internet, the landscape of video games became more expansive
  • Unstructured Games: freedom for the player to roam around a large world, realistic features like the progression of time etc
  • Games with Player Generation of Content: near-total freedom to within the gaming environment, player omnipotence, players however, still played a game with online components but did not exist in a virtual world.
  • Worlds with Designer-Provided Objectives: avatars can wander where they wish but also gain skills and strengths by earning experience points (MMORPGs)
  • Social Networking Sites: not games per se but helped the creation of virtual worlds, profile creation and support of authorized viewers.
  • Open Virtual Worlds: social interaction between people and their avatars in 3d immersive environments with user-chosen objectives, user-generated content and social networking tools



Messinger, P.R., Stroulia, E., Lyons, K., 2008. A typology of Virtual Worlds: Historical Overview and Future Directions. In Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, Vol. 1, no. 1, “Virtual Worlds Research: Past, Present & Future,” July 2008.

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Virtual Communities/ VCs, Porter 2004


VC Definition:

a virtual community is defined as an aggregation of individuals or business partners who interact around a shared interest, where the interaction is at least partially supported and/or mediated by technology and guided by some protocols or norms.

VC Typology:

The proposed typology of virtual communities includes two first-level categories: Member-initiated and Organization-sponsored (…) At the second level of the typology, virtual communities are categorized based on the general relationship orientation of the community. Relationship orientation refers to the type of relationship fostered among members of the community. Member-initiated communities foster either social or professional relationships among members. Organization-sponsored communities foster relationships both among members (e.g., customers, employees) and between individual members and the sponsoring organization.

VC Attributes:

The literature suggests that five attributes could be used to characterize virtual communities:

  1. Purpose : or discourse focus
  2. Place: as in a bounded location (structural) and a sense of shared values (socio-psychological)_ a virtual space is comprised by both a sense of presence and location
  3. Platform: determines synchronicity which in turn enables real-time interaction, focuses only in the technical design of interaction
  4. Population Interaction Structure: 1. VCs as computer supported social networks/ 2. VCs as small groups or networks/ 3. virtual publics versus VCs
  5. Profit Model: tangible economic value



Porter, C.E., 2004. A Typology of Virtual Communities: A Multi-Disciplinary Foundation for Future Research. In Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10 (1), Article 3.

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How soon is now?


  • Real Virtual: virtual environments that represent the real world.
  • Virtual Augmented Real: use of ubiquitous augmented information systems connected to the real world objects (ie. GPS data, pilot’s line of sight measurement etc)
  • Real Augmented Virtual: information from the real world gets embedded into the virtual realm. (ie. Kinect Sports Video Game)
  • Fantastic Virtual: products of unrestrained imagination



Pak, B. Newton, C., Verbeke, J., 2012. Virtual Worlds and Architectural Education: A Typological Framework. In Proceedings of the 30th eCAADe Conference – Volume 1, Czech Technical University in Prague, Faculty of Architecture (Czech Republic) 12-14 September 2012, pp. 739-746.

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Virtual Village ancestors and the concept of Design Correspondence


Three experiments on what became known as ‘design correspondence

01:1 991, The Samarkand competition gave an excuse for collaboration between two designers who lived far apart. The exchange involved correspondence via modem and included updated revisions of the project on a daily basis. Soon, they accumulated a large database that was hard to manage.

02: a joint workshop that lasted two weeks between 12 students of architecture who worked in a computerized design studio in Macintosh and UNIX environments connected by an Ethernet local are network. they were given joint areas later called “digital pin up boards” where they could edit and post notions about the common project. again there were difficulties in naming files, managing the resources etc.

03: 25 participants by two institutions far apart, Harvard University and the University of British Columbia. they utilized WAN. students were given the same problem, to design a pre-fabricated warehouse utilizing the technology of concrete tilt-up panels. the exercise lasted two weeks, week one participants downloaded reference material and developed designs for their elementary panel, week two they developed design models for the building. tutors acted as editors. final crit was realized via phone with speakers. review material was exchanged between universities so thatrecords were identical. the list of proposals was displayed on computer screens in both institutions simultaneously. this was the world’s first electronic jury.



Jerzy Wojtowicz, James N. Davidson and Takehiko Nagakura, 1995, Digital Pinup Board-The Story of the Virtual Village Project. In Virtual Design Studio (ed. Jerzy Wojtowicz), Hong Kong University Press, pp. 09-23

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Sidney Pressey’s Automatic Teacher


Pressey wanted the Automatic Teacher to give the human teacher more time for individual students (…) The machine was built out of typewriter parts and employed an intelligence test with 30 questions (…) The user responded to text question using four keys; each time the user pressed a key the machine advanced the test paper to the next question, but the counter registered only correct answers (…) In December 1925 Pressey began to seek investors, first among publishers and manufacturers of typewriters, adding machines, and mimeograph machines, and later, in the spring of 1926, extending his search to scientific instrument makers (…) in contrast to his peers, investors failed to see the virtues of Pressey’s machine (…) multiple efforts were made by him to massively the machine (he even invested his own money) but high production costs and difficulties in alignment made dragged production to an halt (…) after several attempts Pressey publicly admitted defeat. In a third and final School and Society article, he skewered education as “the one major activity in this country which is still in a crude handicraft stage (…) The Automatic Teacher was a technology of normalization, but it was at the same time a product of liberality.



  1. Petrina, S., 2004. Sidney Pressey and the Automation of Education, 1924-1934. In Technology and Culture, 45(2): 305-330, DOI: 10.1353/tech.2004.0085, full text available here

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